I'm only going to cover briefly the original short barreled, air-cooled
Brownings. They are dealt with in greater depth in Dolf Goldsmith's excellent
volume, The Browning Machine Gun as well as Frank Iannamico's Hard
Rain. This site is intended to deal with the influence these early Brownings
have had on the recent resurgence of interest in the 1919 series Brownings.
Because of the easy accessibility of WW2 period Browning 1919A4 parts sets,
a large number of these have been resurrected in legal semi-auto form. A small
number of collectors have taken an interest in the short barreled version,
the 1919A2. The original 1919A2 parts sets are unavailable, so the only recourse
has been to alter a 1919, as best as one can, to resemble the far rarer A2
variant. Most images will enlarge
if you click on them.
The Browning .30 caliber water-cooled machine gun and tripod was heavy,
bulky, and not well suited to cavalry use. In response to the need for a lighter
and more transportable MG, the Browning 1919A2 air-cooled machine gun was
developed. The 1919A2 was also used in tanks and armored vehicles. Because
the tall post style front sight made it difficult or impossible to install
the A2 in some mounts, like the ball mount, the sights were sometimes removed
altogether and remote sighting was used.
The image at left shows a 1919A2 on an M2 tripod.
Source: Hard Rain, by Frank Iannamico
1919A2 with tripod on packhorse
1919A2 on early M2 light tripod.
Source: The Browning Machine Gun, by Dolf Goldsmith
and right - the 1919A2 as used in armored vehicle. Source: Weapons Mounts
for Secondary Armament, by Noville
If you are interested in these resources, click on the image to go to BMG
parts where they can be purchased.
short barreled weapon was developed by Colt, the MG39BT tank gun, below, a spadegripped
heavy barreled weapon suited for the limited space of the early tanks.
above and right from Colt Automatic Machine Guns and Rifles.
Source: Machine Guns, by Ian V. Hogg
use of spadegrips on ground .30 caliber Browning machine guns is extremely rare,
and with the exception of some experimental models, appear only on Colt's MG38B
water-cooled, and the MG38BT tank gun pictured here. Note that the back plate
does not encompass the side plates, as with the thinner side plate aircraft
guns such as the Colt MG40 and the Browning ANM2. The use of thicker side plate
on the ground guns allow the use of the standard splined back plate This makes
the building of a spadegripped short barreled Browning reasonable.
experience building a short barreled Browning is limited to the one gun I built,
and the crucial component, the barrel and shroud, was was not built by me. I
highly recommend that you have that done by a qualified machinist with experience
in shortening the 1919A4 barrel. I will give enough of an explanation of the
process involved to convey just how precise this procedure must be, when done
The drawing at left is my best understanding of the best way to produce
a shortened barrel that has the correct front bearing surface. The tolerances
are tight, as the press fit must withstand the recoiling forces. You want
this done by someone willing to take the time to do it right.
As to the shroud, the easiest route to a shorty is to simply shorten the
shroud of the 1919A4. The shroud is usually cut and rewelded. The 1919A2 had
an 18.63" barrel, and Federal law requires it be no shorter than 16"
without a special short barrel license.
You must also enlarge the booster opening to 3/4". I prefer the
older two piece booster to the one piece step-down booster that came with
my barrel, so I had to modify a .308 booster. When the Israelis modified
the 30-06 boosters, they drilled the hole to .80", then pressed a
bushing in the hole. When you drill out the bushing it will reveal the
enlarged hole, perfect for the shorty.
Above are three boosters showing relative hole size.
The arrow on the right indicates the bushing installed
by Israel to reduce the hole size for the lower chamber
pressure of the .308 cartridge.
this basic short barreled gun you can add as many of the characteristics of
the originals as you have the skill and equipment to fabricate. When looking
to the 1919A4 as a starting point for a short barreled Browning, the differences
between it, and the 1919A2 or MG38BT should be considered. The 1919A2 had the
earlier slab-sided receiver with the reinforcing stirrup underneath. The rear
sight base is attached to the top plate and not the side plate as with the 1919A4.
The front sight of the 1919A2 is mounted on the forward end of the barrel shroud.
Another conspicuous feature is the slotted barrel shroud, which all of the early
Browning air-cooled guns had. The MG38BT had spadegrips, and no sights on the
gun. It has a wrap around bottom plate, but it is much longer, and the rivets
run the entire length of the receiver. The front mounting point is on a trunnion
adapter, as on the .50 caliber M2 aircraft gun.
Following a brief description and photos of my gun will
be photos and information on other shorty project guns.
There were things I liked about both the 1919A2 and the Colt MG38BT. I
love the early slotted barrel shrouds, and you rarely see them these days.
I decided to start here. Mark Genovese has one on his shorty, which was the
inspiration for me building mine. Photos of Mark's gun follow this tutorial.
Mark Jasobs of Black Bear made the barrel and shroud on Mark Gs gun, so I
got in touch with him about getting one for my gun. That done, I moved on
to another feature I wanted - spade grips. I had been wanting to get away
from the external trigger tripping design used on after market spades and
make a grip with the original internal trigger mechanism. This was an opportunity
to do that, and the MG38BT design was my template. More on the spadegrips
later. My gun was going to need sights, so I decided on the shroud mounted
front post sight. The rear sight on the 1919A2 appears to be mounted on the
top cover latch. The best available photos are not very clear on this. If
you have something that shows good detail on the rear sight of a 1919A2 I
will add it here.
this was the list I ended up with:
Short slotted barrel & shroud
Front post sight
Top mounted rear sight
Spadegrips with internal trigger mech.
At left is a shot of my shorty in my gun room.
Click on the image for an enlargement of just the gun.
At right is a shot of the rear of the gun showing the spadegrips. This
was taken before the rear sight base was removed.
The 1919A2 was a blued gun, so the wire wheel went to work to remove the
Parkerizing. I wanted the gun to look like it had some age, so the bluing
was done so as to give a worn look.
Short Slotted Barrel Shroud
The slotted short barrel shrouds/barrels from Black Bear. Mark makes both
in line slots
and offset, so keep that in mind when ordering. The shortened barrel and shroud
is a work of art.
At left is a 1919A2 front sight. I have seen variations, but this is the
one I used.
I made the band by beating a piece of 3/16" x 1" bar stock around
a mandrel, then welded the seam and turned it on a lathe. The post
was welded on with a liberal bead and the contour turned and ground. The internal
mechanism was my best guess at how the adjustable front sight post might have
worked. The hollow screw post contains the spring and ball, which rests on
a flat filed on the sight blade pin. It stops every 360 degrees. You can put
flats on both sides if you want. The 1919 is not a tack driver, so I used
only one flat.
sight, above, compared to
the original A2 sight, below.
Above and Right:
I removed the 1919A4 sight base, and using a brass plate to back up the
exposed rivet holes in the left side plate, I welded the holes shut and reground
the surface. The front of the sight base is welded to the top cover latch
, and the rear is held by a 1/4-28 hex head machine screw.
was by far the most labor intensive part of the project. Using photos sent to
me by the owner of a Colt MG38B, and the fold-out cutaway from Colt Automatic
Rifles and Machine Guns, I was able to piece together the function of the
original spadegrips. As the original safety is a nightmare to make with the
tools I have, I opted for the more straightforward .50 M2HB safety (thanks to
Kris Hartwig for the original .50 safety bar). The brackets were made by hangman
from original drawings. The two wooden handles are FN30 and donated to the cause
by Mark Genovese. Many thanks to all who chipped in and made the spadegrips
possible. The spanner screws were made from 1.2" carriage bolts because
at the time I did not have originals. The trigger, below, is a modified KARMA
Move the cursor over the image to see the
function of the spadegrip trigger mechanism
Click to see an enlargement.
An original lock frame from an MG38B. The red arrow indicates the stop
that keeps the rocker from rotating out of position when installing the internals.
is the lock frame I made. The rocker is turned from a piece of mild steel bar
stock. Rather than try to leave a large radius in the center and grind it to
shape, I decided to build up weld and grind it. I wanted the contact points
to be tempered against wear, and this seemed the easiest way. I needed an axle
for the rocker to turn on that would also act as a rigid space for the lock
frame. I threaded the end of a small rod, tapped one side of the lock frame,
screwed it in and then tacked the unthreaded end in place with weld.
A dimensioned drawing of the components.
This is Curtis. No reason for him to be here - he just stands in my gun room.
The trigger components in place.
A 3/4 view of the trigger components.
could not use a standard semi return spring because the spacer rod it is usually
attached to rotates. I tried a few designs and settled on this one. To mount
it only requires two tiny holes be drilled in the lock frame block.
Above and below: safety spring.
Drawings showing the .50 caliber style safety. The spring
was made from a spring clip. For more info on this click here.
Following are several shots of the spadegrips. A
special thanks to Kris Hartwig for the thumb pad.
Another small detail - the top cover pin. The early guns
did not have the sprung top
cover catch. I simply turned the shouldered 1919 bolt and drilled a hole for
a cotter pin.
are photos of some short barreled Brownings. Thanks to those contributing to
this section. If you have a shorty you would like to share, please send one
or more images, and let me know what nickname you would like me to use for a
source credit. Please feel free to add tips or suggestions that you think might
be helpful. You can E-mail me
Mark Genovese's Valkyrie shorty as originally built,
left, and after adding a slotted barrel shroud, above.
Here's a beauty. Brassmagnet's 16.25" 8MM on an MG3 ground
mount using his home made adapter.
A great shot of the wicked muzzle blast the short barreled Brownings are noted
for. Thanks to Dutch for this shot.
A frame captured from a movie showing
Brassmagnet's shorty at work.
Thanks to Gary for this great shot of his 8mm twins.
shorty at right and below belongs to Dan at Angola Armory.